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Two Scots set to take on HitchHop challenge

Written by Fiona June 20 2011

It’s amazing the way that outdoors fans come up with new and interesting challenges. Take the HitchHop! Jim Campbell and Brian Ferguson, of Edinburgh, have set themselves a goal of hitch-hiking to as many islands in Scotland as they can in two weeks. (I found out about the challenge through Twitter!)

JIm and Brian are off for a HitchHop

And the reasons for the somewhat unusual challenge? They wanted a challenge, they both love Scotland’s islands – and they want to raise funds for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.

The travel challenge begins on July 1 and will finish at the lighthouse at the Butt of Lewis, the most northerly point of the Western Isles, before Jim and Brian take in the Hebridean Celtic Festival in Stornoway.

Here’s what Brian has written for this blog about the forthcoming challenge:

“How many islands can you set foot on in the space of two weeks”? This might seem like a simple enough question, but it could be one that leads to an adventure or two for good friends, Jim and myself, in the west coast of Scotland next month.

We’ve been plotting a hitch-hiking island-hopping challenge for a few months, after clearing our diaries for what we’ve cheekily entitled “HitchHop”. A Scottish island challenge with a difference, we hope it’ll be the trip of a lifetime, even though we have no real idea where we are going to end up – or how we will get there.

Our inspiration was fairly simple – a real love of the islands and the fun to be had travelling around them, particularly though hitching.

We’ve toyed with the idea of a crazy challenge in the past. One year we successfully hitched from Barra to Stornoway, via a crazy detour to the south end of Skye, in the space of three days. But trying to get around all of Scotland’s distilleries, Munros or even lighthouses didn’t seem that feasible for a holiday. We just couldn’t pin down a good enough idea, or “concept”.

Until, that is, I was given Paul Smith’s hilarious, addictive and gripping “Twitchhiker” book last year. It told of the former radio presenter’s attempt to travel the world as far as possible from his native Gateshead, using the social networking site Twitter. He famously made it to Stewart Island in New Zealand.

Before I’d even finished the book, I’d convinced myself of the wisdom of embarking on a completely different challenge, set entirely on the west coast islands of Scotland, but underpinned – like Paul Smith’s Twitchhiker – by some golden rules.

Jim took the bait instantly, and suddenly the ball was rolling. It took a few meetings in the pub in Edinburgh to hammer our what we were trying to do, but eventually we settled on the following:

HitchHop will begin on July 1 at a location we will announce on the day and will finish at the lighthouse at the Butt of Lewis, the most northerly point of the Western Isles, 14 days later.

The HitchHop will raise funds for the RNLI

There are five key rules:

  • Both of us have to see foot on an island for it to count.
  • All islands will count whether or not they are inhabited – and even if they are connected to another island or the mainland by a bridge or causeway.
  • Although we will be using ferries, we will be mainly relying on the goodwill of others to get around during the challenge.
  • We will accept an offer of a lift, either on dry land or across water, on any form of transport.
  • Although we may make some travel plans in advance, we will not accept any lifts until the day we are travelling.

We decided some time ago on two things – that we wanted to raise money for charity and that we would also do as much as possible to promote the challenge to help boost our fundraising efforts.

We were looking for a cause that would mean something to communities throughout the islands – and after thinking of the RNLI didn’t really look any further. It just seemed like a perfect fit for the challenge.

Importantly, we also thought HitchHop should do what it can to promote the magic of the west coast and the experiences to be had there. Although we are both relative novices in the world of social media, we thought we would use sites such as Facebook and Twitter to promote the challenge.

We hope to build up a reasonable audience before we leave and provide regular updates when we’re on the road, including a daily blog. If we can get a connection!

Jim and I decided to launch the challenge online early last week and since then we’ve been trying to get the word out. We’ve not set an official target, as such, as we have no idea how many islands we might make it to. We think we could get to at least 30 if we get half-decent weather, but we may strike it really lucky and that may end up a conservative estimate. We’ll see.

Spreading the word about HitchHop as much as we can before we leave certainly isn’t going to do us any harm.

You can find HitchHop on both Facebook and Twitter.

HitchHop also has a blog site

HitchHop’s fundraising page

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